Friday, October 23, 2009

Athanasius, the Canon, and Sola Scriptura against Matthew Bellisario and Rome

Recently, Mr. Bellisario provided comments in a comment box attempting to attack the Reformed position using the issues of the canon and Athanasius (his post here). The following is a detailed reply.

MB wrote: "Turretin, the Church doesn't lie to me, your own flawed intellect deceives you."

It shows your zeal to state this so dogmatically, but you have no way of knowing this. How could you possibly know whether your church is lying to you? Are you competent to read the Scriptures and examine history and test the claims of your church?

MB continued: "The Bible doesn't tell you what the Canon is, does it?"

That's an inane comment, for at least the following reasons:

1) It is non-unique

Your church doesn't tell you what the canon of its teachings is. If it is a problem for me to lack an infallible canon of Scripture, then it is a worse problem for you to lack an infallible canon of "Tradition."

2) It is absurd

Jesus was able to tell the Jews to "Search the Scriptures" without the Jews needing an infallible canon to know what were the Scriptures. Paul was able to talk to Timothy about the Scriptures in the same way, and the whole visible church managed to get by without an infallible canon of Scripture at least until Trent.

3) It is inherent

If you have "the Bible" you can deduce the canon. To say that "The Bible doesn't tell you what the Canon is," is rather like saying that the Pizza doesn't tell you what its ingredients are. Well, there may not be a list of ingredients on the side, but if you have the pizza you can write your own list of ingredients.

4) It Forgets that Sola Scriptura assumes Scriptura

Having Scripture is the antecedent for having Sola Scriptura. First we are given the Scriptures, then we believe what they say. I realize this is boundlessly inconvenient for folks who wish to misrepresent Sola Scriptura, but it is what it is.

MB wrote: "You have no infallible way of knowing what the Canon is, so you, by your own flawed intellect go through Church Father writings trying to justify your own position on what you think the Canon is."

Most of the essence of this is addressed above. Here are the counter questions:

1) Since there was no one claiming to have an infallible canon prior to Trent, it seems the only logical conclusion is that your accusation regarding me is the same accusation you must hurl against Cajetan, Jerome, Paul, although we hope you'd have the shame not to hurl it against the Lord Jesus who spoke of Scripture before anyone claimed to have an infallible canon. Do you really want to make that kind of accusation?

2) But if you see that it is fruitless to make such accusations, then why not let me find the canon the same way they did? Why must I be held to a different standard than them, simply because your church has decided that it wants to make a supposedly infallible canon?

3) Finally, surely you ought to be aware that the Reformed position is not that we "go through Church Father writings trying to justify [our] own position on what [we] think the Canon is." We do certainly examine the Church Fathers and also the Jewish writings. We do so both because the historical record is one of the ways by which the Holy Spirit persuades us that this is His Word (from the positive angle) but also to answer the cavils of Romanists who try to claim that Trent's canon is what "the Church has always taught."

To pick on Trent, the statement that Trent is "following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament" (including the Apocrypha) is something that Trent claims, but is either simple ignorance of the historic record or a lie. The Apocrypha were not (and Jerome provides evidence of this) given equal affection of piety and reverence with the canonical books. We could provide additional historical documentation of this, if history and the truth mattered to you.

MB wrote: "As far as the Church being the Church, it is apparent that you are not as familiar with the Church Fathers as you think you are, or you selectively deciding to pick and choose from what they write based on your own flawed intellect."

1) The very idea of going to the church fathers to decide if modern Roman Catholicism is the "the Church" is at least mildly strange. Perhaps one could go to them for tests of the true church, but when we do, we find them using the test of faith, not walls. But they did not see Trent, or the blasphemies of Vatican I and Vatican II. Their doctrines, teachings, and practices were (in many cases) contrary to those modern councils, but they were not around to witness with horror what folks did while trying to claim the title "Catholic."

2) Furthermore, we conclude that Rome is not part of the church, not based on the church fathers, but on Scripture. It is amazing that you act as though you are unaware of this.

MB wrote: "You have no idea as to what history teaches, or what the Scriptures teach."

1) I suppose I could just take this as a personal insult. As such, it's dumb. I've provided extensive documentation on my blog that demonstrates at least some familiarity with both Scripture and history. Only someone who had never perused my blog would think that I have "no idea" what Scripture or history teach.

2) But perhaps you mean this in a broader sense. Perhaps you are trying to argue that no one can know what history or Scripture teach unless they first trust in your church. That would be consistent with you arguments above, although ...

3) Such an argument would, however, undermine any basis for us to accept your church. If we are unable to know what history or Scripture teach without your church telling us, why should we accept your church in the first place? Just on her say so?

4) Furthermore, Scripture itself teaches (and the Fathers did too) that the Scriptures are able to make a person wise unto salvation. To assert that they cannot is to go against Scripture and Tradition.

5) Moreover, as is plain from Scripture itself and is explicitly taught by many of the church fathers, much of Scripture is quite clear. Your claim that I have "no idea" what Scripture teaches is plainly contrary to both Scripture and tradition if you mean in it in a general sense, which it appears you do, because you continued:

MB wrote: "You are like all of those heretics before you, all using their own flawed intellect to come up with novel teachings on what they think the Scriptures mean."

1) Notice the fluid change in the argument from what the Scriptures are to what the Scriptures mean.

2) Notice the attempt to substitute rhetoric for argument. Instead of saying "heretics coming up with novel teachings on what Scripture means," Bellisario loads down his sentence with useless, pejorative rhetorical flourishes:

a) "their own"

Whose else intellect are they going to use?

b) "flawed"

Whose intellect is flawless?

c) "intellect"

Are we supposed to avoid using our intellects?

d) "they think"

Surely, everyone who has an opinion about Scripture thinks they know what Scripture means.

3) We understand, of course, the reason for these empty rhetorical flourishes. The sentence: "Bellisario doesn't like heretics" sounds more vehement when we phrase it as "Bellisario doesn't like those that he thinks are, using his own flawed intellect, heretics."

4) But the rhetoric distracts from the issue. How can we determine whether "the heretics" got it right or wrong? After all, some of the heretics did not and do not appeal to Scripture alone for their claims. The Gnostics, for example, claimed oral tradition - the Muslims and Mormons claim additional revelation - and so have many other heretical groups. The way that we determine whether heretics got it right or wrong is by appeal to Scripture (and, yes, in the process we have to use our minds, which involves thinking, and using our intellects, even though our intellects are not flawless).

MB wrote: "Do you remember a man named St. Athanasius, who refuted the Arians, who also were quoting Scripture to defend their heresies?"

He wasn't named "St. Athanasius." Yes, the Arians did attempt to quote Scripture - so do Romanists - so do Mormons. Lots of folks do that, once they realize the authority of Scripture. Lots of criminals quote the laws of the land (especially the constitution, in constitutional countries).

Satan himself quoted Scripture - and Jesus rebutted him. How? From Scripture.

MB wrote: "Since you apparently didn't learn anything from our debate (the one that you think you won), let me give you a refresher."

We've only done (you and I) one formal debate. That is the one to which you are referring, and which can be found here (link). The remainder, which can also be found there, are informal debates or conversations or the like. I am just as willing to have them examined by the reader as I am our formal debate.

MB wrote: "The Arians also thought they could take the Scriptures for themselves outside of the Church and interpret it for themselves."

This just shows MB's lack of familiarity with the error of Arianism. Arianism arose within "the church" and gained a majority position there. Athanasius (from whom MB is about to quote) put it this way:

Athanasius (297-373): For if ever God shall give back the churches (for we think He will) yet without such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us. And lest, speaking without the Scriptures, I should [seem to] speak too strongly, it is well to bring you to the testimony of Scriptures, for recollect that the Temple indeed was at Jerusalem; the Temple was not deserted, aliens had invaded it, whence also the Temple being at Jerusalem, those exiles went down to Babylon by the judgment of God, who was proving, or rather correcting them; while manifesting to them in their ignorance punishment [by means] of blood-thirsty enemies. And aliens indeed had held the Place, but knew not the Lord of the Place, while in that He neither gave answer nor spoke, they were deserted by the truth. NPNF2: Vol. IV, Letters of Athanasius, I. Festal Letters, fragment.

Notice how Athanasius views the faith itself as more fundamental than the churches. Furthermore, he proves his position from Scripture, rather than from "the Church" (at least for the obvious reason, namely that "the churches" had been taken over by Arians).

MB wrote: "But St. Athanasius told them they were interpreting the Scriptures incorrectly and not as they had been handed on to them in the Church."

We tell you that same thing, namely that your views of Scripture are incorrect and novel. And you try to tell us that too. To answer those questions, one would expect to then find some sort of umpire by which to decide whose interpretation is correct.

MB wrote: "You know, the one you reject."

I reject the church of Rome, which anathematized the gospel at Trent. I don't "reject" the church as defined by the faith (which gets us back to what Athanasius said above).

MB continued: "The great Saint wrote,"

As an aside, it is interesting how he is "The great Saint" when he writes things that Bellisario thinks he agrees with, and merely an individual church father and private theologian when he writes things that Bellisario disagrees with. All rhetoric aside, let's examine the quotations that Bellisario provided.

First: "“However here too they (Arians) introduce their private fictions, and contend that the Son and the Father are not in such wise 'one,' or 'like,' as the Church preaches, but as they themselves would have it" Orat 3,10”"

1) The extra quotation marks there are because Mr. Bellisario cut and pasted this quotation from somewhere else on the Internet. I'm confident that Mr. Bellisario originally borrowed this particular quotation from Phil Porvaznik's website, and Phil got it (apparently) from Joe Gallegos. I don't know whether Phil or Joe ever bothered to read the context of the quotations, but I would be surprised if Bellisario did. Incidentally, these are the same quotations that have already been addressed in our debate. But we'll look at them again.

2) Athanasius does mention the "the Church" and talks about the church preaching. He is arguing that the Arians' view is out of line with what the church teaches, but he does not think that this concludes the argument. In fact, he treats it as simply a statement of the disagreement between the Arians and "the Church."

The part that Bellisario has quoted comes from the opening of chapter 25 of Discourse 3 against the Arians. The word "church" is used in that one instance in the opening section (section 10 of Discourse 3) and the word "church" is not used again until section 67, at the conclusion of the discourse, about five chapters later, where Athanasius says: "Therefore call not the Son a work of good pleasure; nor bring in the doctrine of Valentinus into the Church; but be He the Living Counsel, and Offspring in truth and nature, as the Radiance from the Light." (Athanasius, Discourse III against the Arians, Chapter 30, Section 67)

There is no reference to "tradition" as such, aside from a single reference to the church fathers very briefly at one point: "And yet, needless though it be to refine upon these passages, considering their so clear and religious sense, and our own orthodox belief, yet that their irreligion may be shown here also, come let us shortly, as we have received from the fathers, expose their heterodoxy from the passage." (Athanasius, Discourse III against the Arians, Chapter 25, Section 18)

This quotation itself highlights and illustrates Athanasius' approach. He thought that the Scriptures were "clear" as to their "sense," and he relied extensively on them. Discourse 3 against the Arians refers to Scripture over 100 times. So, yes, Athanasius claimed that his position was what "the church" taught, and he viewed the Arians' teachings as something properly foreign to "the church," but he did argued from the authority of Scripture.

And not only from Scripture, but from his own flawed intellect (I use this description simply to honor Bellisario's rhetorical flourish above, not to insult Athanasius or to suggest, as Bellisario was trying, that the conclusions reached are wrong). In fact, in Chapter 25, Section 11, from which Bellisario quoted, Athanasius goes on to apply reason to Scripture in this way:
For they say, since what the Father wills, the Son wills also, and is not contrary either in what He thinks or in what He judges, but is in all respects concordant with Him, declaring doctrines which are the same, and a word consistent and united with the Father's teaching, therefore it is that He and the Father are One; and some of them have dared to write as well as say this. Now what can be more unseemly or irrational than this? For if therefore the Son and the Father are One and if in this way the Word is like the Father, it follows immediately that the Angels too, and the other beings above us, Powers and Authorities, and Thrones and Dominions, and what we see, Sun and Moon, and the Stars, should be sons also, as the Son; and that it should be said of them too, that they and the Father are one, and that each is God's Image and Word. For what God wills, that will they; and neither in judging nor in doctrine are they discordant, but in all things are obedient to their Maker. For they would not have remained in their own glory, unless, what the Father willed, that they had willed also. He, for instance, who did not remain, but went astray, heard the words, 'How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning [Isaiah 14:12]?' But if this be so, how is only He Only-begotten Son and Word and Wisdom? Or how, whereas so many are like the Father, is He only an Image? For among men too will be found many like the Father, numbers, for instance, of martyrs, and before them the Apostles and Prophets, and again before them the Patriarchs. And many now too keep the Savior's command, being merciful 'as their Father which is in heaven,' and observing the exhortation, 'Be therefore followers of God as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us [Ephesians 5:1-2];' many too have become followers of Paul as he also of Christ. [1 Corinthians 11:1] And yet no one of these is Word or Wisdom or Only-begotten Son or Image; nor did any one of them make bold to say, 'I and the Father are One,' or, 'I in the Father, and the Father in Me;' but it is said of all of them, 'Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? And who shall be likened to the Lord among the sons of Gods?' and of Him on the contrary that He only is Image true and natural of the Father. For though we have been made after the Image, and called both image and glory of God, yet not on our own account still, but for that Image and true Glory of God inhabiting us, which is His Word, who was for us afterwards made flesh, have we this grace of our designation.
- Athanasius, Discourse III against the Arians, Chapter 25, Section 11

Notice how Athanasius argues from reason and Scripture there. This is not surprising, when we discover the context of these writings of Athanasius. Athanasius explains the point of the four discourses against the Arians in the first section of the first chapter of the first discourse:
Of all other heresies which have departed from the truth it is acknowledged that they have but devised a madness, and their irreligiousness has long since become notorious to all men. For that their authors went out from us, it plainly follows, as the blessed John has written, that they never thought nor now think with us. Wherefore, as says the Savior, in that they gather not with us, they scatter with the devil, and keep an eye on those who slumber, that, by this second sowing of their own mortal poison, they may have companions in death. But, whereas one heresy, and that the last, which has now risen as harbinger of Antichrist, the Arian, as it is called, considering that other heresies, her elder sisters, have been openly proscribed, in her craft and cunning, affects to array herself in Scripture language, like her father the devil, and is forcing her way back into the Church's paradise,— that with the pretence of Christianity, her smooth sophistry (for reason she has none) may deceive men into wrong thoughts of Christ—nay, since she has already seduced certain of the foolish, not only to corrupt their ears, but even to take and eat with Eve, till in their ignorance which ensues they think bitter sweet, and admire this loathsome heresy, on this account I have thought it necessary, at your request, to unrip 'the folds of its breast-plate,' and to show the ill savor of its folly. So while those who are far from it may continue to shun it, those whom it has deceived may repent; and, opening the eyes of their heart, may understand that darkness is not light, nor falsehood truth, nor Arianism good; nay, that those who call these men Christians are in great and grievous error, as neither having studied Scripture, nor understanding Christianity at all, and the faith which it contains.
- Athanasius, Discourse I against the Arians, Chapter 1, Section 1

I'm not sure I could say it any more clearly than Athanasius says it for himself, so I'll leave aside Mr. Bellisario's flawed reliance on a quotation bereft of its context from the third discourse and consider Mr. Bellisario's other quotation.

"But after him (the devil) and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power" Festal Letter 2"

1) Again, that odd quotation mark after "Festal Letter" is simply an artifact of Mr. Bellisario's cutting and pasting.

2) Mr. Bellisario has oddly quoted a text that teaches exactly contrary to his position. Since Mr. Bellisario provides no commentary on the quotation, one is left guessing as to the source of his confusion. Perhaps Mr. Bellisario mistakenly thinks that the "them" in "receiving them as the traditions of men" refers back to "opinions as the saints have handed down" as opposed to "the Scriptures." However, the Scriptures are what is in view. We know this, because Athanasius is making a Biblical allusion:

Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

Mark 12:24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

Those verses are crystal clear as to what Jesus is referencing, and that clear verse resolves the ambiguity in Athanasius' sentence.

Athanasius is criticizing those who don't give proper respect to Scripture. It is in failing to give proper respect to Scripture that these folks depart from the opinions of the saints. We can see this further from the context.

3) The context itself refers to the Scriptures as divine tradition:
Therefore Paul justly praises the Corinthians [1 Cor. xi. 2.], because their opinions were in accordance with his traditions. And the Lord most righteously reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Wherefore do ye also transgress the commandments of God on account of your traditions [Matt. xv. 3.].’ For they changed the commandments they received from God after their own understanding, preferring to observe the traditions of men. And about these, a little after, the blessed Paul again gave directions to the Galatians who were in danger thereof, writing to them, ‘If any man preach to you aught else than that ye have received, let him be accursed [Gal. i. 9.].’
- Athanasius, Festal Letter 2, Section 6

Notice not only that Athanasius is himself relying on the authority of Scripture, but that he is contrasting the Scriptures with human traditions.

And in case there was any ambiguity in what Athanasius says in section 6, see how he continues in Section 7:
For there is no fellowship whatever between the words of the saints and the fancies of human invention; for the saints are the ministers of the truth, preaching the kingdom of heaven, but those who are borne in the opposite direction have nothing better than to eat, and think their end is that they shall cease to be, and they say, ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die [Is. xxii. 13.].’ Therefore blessed Luke reproves the inventions of men, and hands down the narrations of the saints, saying in the beginning of the Gospel, ‘Since many have presumed to write narrations of those events of which we are assured, as those who from the beginning were witnesses and ministers of the Word have delivered to us; it hath seemed good to me also, who have adhered to them all from the first, to write correctly in order to thee, O excellent Theophilus, that thou mayest know the truth concerning the things in which thou hast been instructed [Luke i. 1.].’ For as each of the saints has received, that they impart without alteration, for the confirmation of the doctrine of the mysteries. Of these the (divine) word would have us disciples, and these should of right be our teachers, and to them only is it necessary to give heed, for of them only is ‘the word faithful and worthy of all acceptation [1 Tim. i. 15.];’ these not being disciples because they heard from others, but being eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, that which they had heard from Him have they handed down.
- Athanasius, Festal Letter 2, Section 6

Notice what is handed down: Scripture. That is contraasted with "the fancies of human invention" and identifies the testimonies of these saints who were "eye-witnesses" with the canonical gospels, particularly Luke's gospel. Nothing could be more helpful to the Reformed position and more undermining of Rome's and Bellisario's position, yet because (we must guess) Bellisario is unfamiliar with the context of the quotation, he has been kind enough to provide a quotation that refutes his own position.

Mr. Bellisario concluded: "You sir are sadly in the same boat."

Well, I'm certainly not an Arian. But even the Arians recognized the authority of Scripture. Athanasius recognized it too, and persuaded the Arians from Scripture to abandon their error and many did repent as Athanasius had hoped for (see the quotation from his first discourse, above). Perhaps you will similarly examine Scripture and join the boat of those who rely upon Scripture, rather than human tradition, as their authority: repenting of your errors and trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

-TurretinFan

P.S. On a rather ironic note, it is from Athanasius (without the benefit of any infallible canon) that we find our first preserved list of the 66 books of the Bible, in his 39th Festal letter.

UPDATE: It should be noted that Dr. White already provided a similar response to a similar attempt to misuse Athanasius, in an early post (link to the earlier post).

11 comments:

Ryan said...

An excellent and much appreciated post.

natamllc said...

Geesh, these long rebuttals can weary a short fuse like me.

One at a time then!

I probably will post more comments. Here's my first based on these words:

"....Having Scripture is the antecedent for having Sola Scriptura. First we are given the Scriptures, then we believe what they say. I realize this is boundlessly inconvenient for folks who wish to misrepresent Sola Scriptura, but it is what it is....".

Seeing Mr. Bellisario has resorted to straining at the gnats all the while the big elephant is standing in the room I thought it prudent to observe based on those words of yours TF that there is one part here that could be considered inside or outside the rebuttal and that is found in this off chance realization to wit Paul the Apostle made a big stinkin' deal of it:::>


Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Rom 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Rom 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
Rom 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

And every one, or at least, thinkin' people know, that if Paul is makin' a big stinkin' deal of it, so is God?

Here is Paul's stinkin' deal. He says, even though you might never have the Scripture to read or read and ponder, you have God's inherent Righteousness plainly crushing in on your natural life.

I speak this observation from a California Indian's point of reference seeing we didn't even have Scriptures when all the fuss was being made about us, just ourselves to bring about the savagery we were known for! If you care to read the treaty of Guadalupe Hilgado you will see the Spanish pleaded with the U.S. to assist them, ironically after being defeated by the U.S., in protecting them from the "savages" of California.

It's clear from where I sit, Scripture is a cultural canon necessary for the edification of one's soul.

Paul further instructed it this way:

1Ti 4:6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

natamllc said...

I might add, after reading this:

"....MB wrote: "You are like all of those heretics before you, all using their own flawed intellect to come up with novel teachings on what they think the Scriptures mean."...".

Yes, my intellect is flawed. It isn't so flawed though that I don't understand these Scriptures:::>


Rom 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Now some people "hear" the Word first and then come to study Scripture and piety.

I wasn't as fortunate as these. I was given a Bible to read. When I did, I read and read and read for 3 and a half days and nights straight through, starting at Matthew to Romans 14 before I realized how absorbed I was in reading the Scriptures for the very first time.

Now, I hasten to say, I was catechized by the RCC. Hmmmmm? Why didn't anyone give me a Bible to read then?

There is something to be preached on the housetops about flawed intellects and gaining a new mind in Christ, now isn't there?

Or, is that flawed reasoning? :)

natamllc said...

Huh?

Now what's that suppose to do?

"....I am just as willing to have them examined by the reader as I am our formal debate....".

Well, like I was taught, if you can't beat them face to face, use all your own personal savage means available and keep your reputation! Fight on until the death, theirs not yours, cause if they kill you, it's over!

Daaaauh!

Mr. Bellisario, might I observe, you have held back your generous civility with that one. Might I suggest you return to comity and be a bit more decent. This comment shows how low you will go. It shows me your willingness to sow the seeds of doubt. I would say, "shame on you"! grrrrr :::>

"....I am just as willing to have them examined by the reader as I am our formal debate....".

"What"? Am I missing something here?

natamllc said...

I hope I am not going overboard here with my responses?

I would observe something after these two bits:::>

Athanasius (297-373): For if ever God shall give back the churches (for we think He will) yet without such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us. And lest, speaking without the Scriptures, I should [seem to] speak too strongly, it is well to bring you to the testimony of Scriptures, for recollect that the Temple indeed was at Jerusalem; the Temple was not deserted, aliens had invaded it, whence also the Temple being at Jerusalem, those exiles went down to Babylon by the judgment of God, who was proving, or rather correcting them; while manifesting to them in their ignorance punishment [by means] of blood-thirsty enemies. And aliens indeed had held the Place, but knew not the Lord of the Place, while in that He neither gave answer nor spoke, they were deserted by the truth. NPNF2: Vol. IV, Letters of Athanasius, I. Festal Letters, fragment.

Notice how Athanasius views the faith itself as more fundamental than the churches. Furthermore, he proves his position from Scripture, rather than from "the Church" (at least for the obvious reason, namely that "the churches" had been taken over by Arians).

First off, that is very insightful of Athanasius, that quotation cited here. Who gave him such spiritual wisdom by the Spirit of God, Himself?

I will follow this comment with another regarding the heresy of Arius, next.

natamllc said...

It has to be clear about the heresy of Arius of the Fourth Century when one understands what St. Paul is teaching here:::>

Col 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
Col 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
Col 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
Col 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Col 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
Col 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

One only need to realize what "God the Father" did and is doing, by "making" the Bride "one" with Christ as taught in those words by St. Paul.

"...Col 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
Col 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority....".

Just those words alone refute the idea that Christ and His "substance" was or is something less than One equal to God's and the Holy Ghost's?

This is the sole mystery of the Gospel as St. Paul taught also, here:::>

Col 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
Col 1:25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
Col 1:26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
Col 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

natamllc said...

Following up with the last comment:::>

Not only that, but this too, when St. Paul writes this about the "abilities" of another co-worker:::>


Col 1:7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf
Col 1:8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

Epaphras has the same "Spirit" at work within him to "see" the same "Spirit" at work in others.

And what is it that they see and teach, but a fullness of God in us too:::>

Col 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
Col 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Col 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
Col 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

How Arius got into the mess he did causes me to tremble at His Word, too!

Why?

Well, life is like an open book test, all the answers are in the book! Its not the book's fault you are not getting all the answers correct! Hmmmmm?

natamllc said...

Well, from the last lengthy set of quotations of Athanasius and these following words I would say Athanasius might have arrived at his conclusion from the Scriptures, such as the ones posted after:::>

".... Notice not only that Athanasius is himself relying on the authority of Scripture, but that he is contrasting the Scriptures with human traditions....".

Consider Scriptures' [God's], take on human traditions. God isn't fond of them:::>

Psa 68:19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah
Psa 68:20 Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
Psa 68:21 But God will strike the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
Psa 68:22 The Lord said, "I will bring them back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
Psa 68:23 that you may strike your feet in their blood, that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe."

Coram Deo said...

Well said, TF.

I always get a good chuckle when folks roll out logical absurdities during argumentation.

"Judge not!"

"Are you judging my judging?"

"No, I'm just saying that the Bible says 'judge not', therefore you shouldn't judge."

"But aren't you making a judgment that I'm judging, and in your judgment I should 'judge not'?"

"Uh, no, uh, I mean..."

Viisaus said...

I am quite certain that Holy Spirit would have not left us such long and detailed condemnations of tradition-mongering Pharisees if we today could not apply those same ideas to our contemporary phenomena.

And so, Protestants can EASILY apply the Matthew 23 blasting of Pharisees to the RCC.

Protestant commentator Matthew Henry noted a particularly stinging comparison between the honors that Pharisees gave to the prophets of old and those that Romanists give to their "church fathers" (like Athanasius):


"[2.] As an instance of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, who paid their respect to them. Note, Carnal people can easily honour the memories of faithful ministers that are dead and gone, because they do not reprove them, nor disturb them, in their sins. Dead prophets are seers that see not, and those they can bear well enough; they do not torment them, as the living witnesses do, that bear their testimony viva voce—with a living voice, Rev. 11:10. They can pay respect to the writings of the dead prophets, which tell them what they should be; but not the reproofs of the living prophets, which tell them what they are. Sit divus, modo non sit vivus—Let there be saints; but let them not be living here.

"The extravagant respect which the church of Rome pays to the memory of saints departed, especially the martyrs, dedicating days and places to their names, enshrining their relics, praying to them, and offering to their images, while they make themselves drunk with the blood of the saints of their own day, is a manifest proof that they not only succeed, but exceed, the scribes and Pharisees in a counterfeit hypocritical religion, which builds the prophets' tombs, but hates the prophets' doctrine."

http://www.ewordtoday.com/comments/matthew/gill/matthew23.htm


But I do wonder - how on earth could ROMANISTS interpret passages like Matthew 23 to their edification? (Of course, in the good old days Rome did not even allow laymen to read such stuff on their own, and thus had no such problem.)

Could RCs - with straight face - possibly claim that the practises described in Matthew 23 resemble more the Protestants than their own church?

Rhology said...

What Matthew Bellisario can do with a straight face never ceases to amaze, Viisaus.